Best Bluetooth Speaker
Bluetooth speakers are an ideal way to bring the party wherever you go. Whether it’s at the beach, your backyard, a picnic, or anywhere else you need tunes, a good Bluetooth speaker will do the job in a way that your cell phone alone simply can't. If you don’t already own one, you’ll be surprised how many places seem ideal to bring one along. Here are some of our favorites among the best Bluetooth speakers on the market today.
Ultimate Ears Boom 3 Bluetooth Speaker
JBL Charge 4 Bluetooth Speaker
Sonos Move Bluetooth Speaker
The purpose of a Bluetooth speaker appears simple enough on paper: pair to various devices via Bluetooth and pump out some sound. In the real world, there's a lot more to it than that. Life happens and things get damaged, which is why we're particularly keen on selecting the tough-as-nails Ultimate Ears Boom 3 as our best all-around Bluetooth speaker. With a claimed 15 hour battery life and IP67-rated water and dust resistance, you can take this speaker to the beach or pool and not worry about damaging it if it happens to fall in water. Even if it does, you’ll be happy to know it also floats! Beyond being tough enough to work in nearly any environment, the Boom 3 features a 360-degree sound profile that allows it to work well anywhere. Whereas many speakers will simply project sound forward, the cylindrical shape of the Boom 3 allows sound to radiate outward to fill a room. A single Boom 3 is loud enough for parties whether they're indoors or outdoors. If that's not enough, the Boom 3 can be connected with other Ultimate Ears speakers for even more volume. Ultimate Ears claims on their own website that over 150 speakers can be connected in this manner. Good luck finding 150, but if you do, invite me to that party. Ultimate Ears also provides an app that allows further customization - in addition to adjustable EQ settings, the app allows control over different playback modes, remote control, and pairing with other Ultimate Ears speakers. It ships with a flat Micro-USB cable for charging, but you'll need to bring your own adapter. Sure, there are speakers that sound a bit better or have a longer battery life, but the Boom 3 does everything very well while being the most versatile option in the real world. Simply put, the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is the best all-around Bluetooth speaker you can buy.
If you're looking for better sound quality and battery life, there’s the JBL Charge 4. The JBL Charge 3 was one of the best sounding Bluetooth speakers we've come across; the 4 sounds great, but it's not a huge improvement over the 3. That said, it does seem to get louder than its predecessor. One notable upgrade that the 4 sees is the addition of a USB Type-C charging input compared to the Micro-USB charging port on the 3; the standard USB-A port remains unchanged, and can be used to connect the Charge 4 directly to various devices. The USB-C charging port also means you won't have to carry along multiple cables for all your devices. The Charge 4 is a great outdoor speaker as well; in addition to the substantial 20-hour run time, it's waterproof. JBL claims IPX7 certification, so you won’t have to worry about getting it wet. Even if it gets dropped in a pool, it'll withstand being completely submerged for up to 30 minutes before any damage occurs. It will float for a bit, so you have time to recover it before it eventually sinks. If you already own a JBL Charge 3, there isn’t much of a reason to upgrade. On the other hand, if you're looking for a great-sounding, waterproof, long-lasting speaker, it’s easy to recommend the JBL Charge 4.
The Sonos Move is a fascinating Bluetooth speaker in many ways, and not the least because it's the company's first Bluetooth-compatible speaker. As you'd expect from Sonos, the Move tends to do things in its own unique way and raises eyebrows along the way. First, the price - at the time of publishing, it cost just shy of $400 at major retailers. Does the Sonos Move really justify its premium price tag? It comes down to how and where you’ll be using this speaker.
If you need something to mindlessly toss in your bag and carry around with you, there are far better options available - see our other two favorite picks. The Sonos Move weighs close to 7 pounds, and you'll definitely feel every ounce by mid-day. The Sonos is better suited for your kitchen or bedroom, and can be moved outside to your patio for a backyard get-together. There are two ways to charge the Move: you can place it on the included charging base, or you can plug a cable into the USB-C port on the back of the speaker. Taken off the base, Sonos claims around 10 hours of battery life on a full charge. One unique attribute is the fact that the battery can be removed and replaced without replacing the entire unit. Sonos says the replacement will be available at a later date; at this time, availability is TBA.
The Move utilizes either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to connect, but there are limitations when using a Bluetooth connection. The Move can connect to other Sonos speakers, but it's a little different compared to the "Works with Sonos" certification that the company's audio equipment typically comes with. Instead, it'll connect (via Wi-Fi only) to a second Move speaker for stereo output, or to an existing Sonos system. Sonos is careful to specifically point out that the Move is not directly compatible with their wireless subwoofer, but can be grouped to a home theater system that already has one networked. The other headline feature is built-in Amazon Alexa and support for Google Assistant, but only when it is connected via Wi-Fi.
So far, it's fairly obvious that the Move lives up to its Sonos brand reputation. It's a little bulky, but its connectivity is dead simple and it's intuitive to operate. Let's ask the $400 question: it's a $400 Bluetooth speaker. Does it sound good? Short answer: yes. The Sonos Move sounds great. The tweeter and woofer sit in an enclosure designed to broadcast sound out 360 degrees, so it doesn’t matter much where it is placed. It gets fairly loud, and is capable of putting out a surprising amount of bass. To up the ante, Sonos includes TruePlay to the Move; this system automatically tunes the sound profile depending on the surroundings, and it happens seamlessly enough where you likely won't notice it happening.
The Sonos Move, at its core, is similar to the others on this list, but the price and functionality separate this particular Bluetooth speaker from the rest. We feel that the overall quality, ease of use, and performance allows the Move to justify its price tag, but it's certainly not an appropriate choice for someone looking for a "casual" Bluetooth speaker experience. As with other Sonos products, the Move makes no apologies for its premium positioning, and fits in effortlessly where sound quality and slick integration are prized.